In this article, Vikram Vaswani discusses the ways in which SQL plays an important role in the computer market today, and what may be in store for this database language in the future. This excerpt comes from chapter 26 of MySQL: The Complete Reference, by Vikram Vaswani (McGraw-Hill/Osborne, ISBN 0-07-222477-0, 2004).
Today’s market for database management products exceeds $12 billion per year in products and services revenues, up from about $5 billion per year a decade ago. On several occasions over the last decade, lower year-over-year growth in the quarterly revenues of the major database vendors has led analysts to talk about a maturing database market. Each time, a wave of new products or new data management applications has returned the market to double-digit growth. Client/server architecture, ERP applications, data warehousing and business intelligence, three-tier web site architectures—each of these spurred a new wave of database technology and a new wave of SQL-based database deployments. If the history of the last two decades is any indication, database technology will continue to find new applications and generate increasing revenues for years to come. The trends shaping the market bode well for its continued health and point to a continuing tension between market maturity and consolidation on the one hand, and exciting new database capabilities and applications on the other.
Enterprise Database Market Maturity
Relational database technology has become accepted as a core enterprise data processing technology, and relational databases have been deployed by virtually all large corporations. Because of the importance of corporate databases and years of experience in using relational technology, many, if not most, large corporations have selected a single DBMS brand as an enterprisewide database standard. Once such a standard has been established and widely deployed within a company, there is strong resistance to switching brands. Even though an alternative DBMS product may offer advantages for a particular application or may pioneer a new, useful feature, an announcement by the standard vendor that such features are planned for a future release will often forestall the loss of a customer by the established vendor.
The trend to corporate database standards has tended to reinforce and strengthen the market positions of the established major DBMS vendors. The existence of large direct sales forces, established customer support relationships, and multiyear volume purchase agreements has become as important as, or more important than, technology advantage. With this market dynamic, the large established players tend to concentrate on growing their business within their existing installed base instead of attempting to take customers away from competitors. In the late 1990s, industry analysts saw and predicted this tendency at both Informix and Sybase. Oracle, with a much larger share of the market, was forced to aggressively compete for new accounts in its attempt to maintain its database license revenue growth. Microsoft, as the upstart in the enterprise database market, was cast in the role of challenger, attempting to leverage its position in workgroup databases into enterprise-level prototypes and pilot projects as a way to pry enterprise business away from the established players.
One important impact of the trend to corporate DBMS vendor standardization has been a consolidation in the database industry. New startup database vendors tend to pioneer new database technology and grow by selling it to early adopters. These early adopters have helped to shape the technology and identified the solution areas where it can deliver real benefits. After a few years, when the advantages of the new technology have been demonstrated, the startup vendors are acquired by large established players. These vendors can bring the new technology into their installed base, and bring their marketing and sales muscle to bear in an attempt to win business in their competitor’s accounts. The early 1990s saw this cycle play out with database vendor acquisitions of database tools vendors. In the late 1990s, the same cycle applied to mergers and acquisitions of database vendors. Informix’s purchase of Illustra (a pioneering object-relational vendor), Red Brick (a pioneering data warehousing vendor), and Cloudscape (a pioneering pure Java database vendor) are three examples of the pattern. Just a few years later, Informix itself was acquired by IBM, continuing this particular chain of consolidation.
Remember: this is chapter 26 of MySQL: The Complete Reference, by Vikram Vaswani (McGraw-Hill/Osborne, ISBN 0-07-222477-0, 2004). Vikram is the founder of Melonfire, and has had numerous articles featured on Dev Shed. Buy this book now.